Finding the Ultimate Industry Mentor

Dec. 5, 2022

For shop owners looking to level up in 2023, finding the right mentor could make all the difference. Here are five tips for making sure you get it right. 

According to the Ratchet & Wrench 2022 Industry Survey, the shops that grossed the most revenue had a shop owner under the teaching of a coach or mentor.  

There's no denying the value in being guided by someone who's built the kind of shop your strive to create, learned lessons through experience, and can offer advice that saves time and makes a shop more money.  

"Shops should have a mentor before they get a shop—yesterday is not soon enough," says Cecil Bullard, CEO & President of The Institute for Automotive Business Excellence.  

"You don't know what you don't know—and that's the problem. You don't know the right questions to ask. Mentors have made the mistakes you don't want to make, and they can teach you. They can save you time and heartache, and consumers want to do business with shops with smart mentors." 

Hiring mentors and coaches is a business growth that pays dividends, but it's essential to ensure you hire someone who is the right fit. Here's what you need to know about hiring mentors and coaches.  

How to Know When to Select a Mentor 

Cecil Bullard, an industry veteran, believes you should hire a mentor even as you're opening your shop. He notes that the shop owners they've worked with have seen their overall profit increase from $70,000 to $150,000 through mentorship, and some shop owners are experiencing $60,000 months (in profit).  

"Mentorship teaches things you don't know and leads to real results. You learn how to price better, find suppliers, and can absorb the experience. You can learn a different way of thinking," says Bullard. 

You'll know it's time to hire a mentor when you can self-assess and identify your needs. Building a shop is about more than employees and equipment—a growth mindset and having the right strategies can be the difference between tremendous profit or a shop that's not growing. 

“Our industry has not done a great job historically of creating mentorships,” says Jimmy Alauria, owner of 3A Automotive & Diesel Repair, and CEO of Victory TeamBuilding Group.  

“We're in a position now where the average Master Technician is about in their mid-fifties—we’re running out of people. It’s a requirement now of everyone in the automotive industry to implement mentorship programs in our shops—it’s a matter of survival. We should look at multiple ways to implement mentorship in our shops because we’re in an industry that requires hands-on training.”  

Evaluate what information you're lacking. Think through each aspect of your shop and where they could be an improvement. Look for mentors that could help you in those areas.  

How to Locate and Vet a Mentor  

We live in the digital information age, which means we have access to people and information in ways that were not previously possible. You can find mentors online or in person.  

"You should have more than one mentor—one local and one online," says Bullard. "Choose coaching and consulting companies to work with that are the right fit and give you the answers you're looking for. Every shop should be involved with the national associations because of what they can do for you. The owners that participate in mentorships have more successful shops." 

Bullard notes that there are online groups offering mentorship at no cost. He points toward podcasts and other online resources to get started in your mentorship journey. He says there are different types of mentors in your community, and to always surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. 

Once you find mentors and coaches, ensure they're the right fit. You want mentors that fit your style but also have the experience you could benefit from. Look for testimonials from those they've worked with, what experience they bring, and what level of success they've achieved. Don't be afraid to ask questions.  

How to Set Goals When Working With a Mentor  

With clarity on the need for a mentor and having found one, set goals for your time with a mentor. You'll go nowhere if you don't have clarity on what direction to take. Each mentoring relationship will only be as successful as the goals you set—determine what success is in the relationship.  

Set goals by thinking through the things you want to accomplish. Ask yourself:

  • Do I need to learn to price? 
  • Can my operations be improved? 
  • Do I have the most efficient employee training program? 
  • What are my profit and revenue goals? 
  • How can I be a better leader for my team? 

Get clarity on all the personal and professional goals you want to accomplish, and make sure your mentor has that list. Giving a mentor a clear list of objectives gives each of your the best opportunity to achieve your goals.  

“You can’t have unrealistic expectations with mentorship,” says Alauria. “We can’t expect to go from $250,000 to $10 million. We need to set targets that gradually get us more towards an ideal scene. Think about metrics that are trackable and realistic to attach expectations to. Most of the time, you’re doing things right, but just need clarity on some of the pieces that help you reach your next level of growth.”  

How to Know When It's Time to Move On From a Mentor  

Every relationship eventually reaches a point where you question if it's wise to move forward. Sometimes you can outgrow mentor relationships, and it's good to know when that point is reached. Practically, you don't want to pay for a service you're not benefiting from anymore.  

"In this day and age, business and life have become so difficult that shop owners could benefit from someone guiding them," says Mike Bennett, program manager for the Automotive Training Institute. 

"Sometimes, you bring in a mentor to help you solve a specific need. However, it may be time to move on when that potential has been realized. You have to ask yourself if the value is still there—are you still growing? You can't be afraid to move on from a mentor if the value is no longer there." 

Evaluate every mentor situation you're in. Even if it's a free Facebook group, it costs you one of your most valuable resources: time. Determine if you're still getting value from the mentorship, and make the best decision for your time, money, and mindset. The goal should be constant growth. 

Find a Mentor 

Finding mentors and coaches for yourself and your employees has tremendous benefits. Investing in yourself is a business growth strategy that leads to more profit and a stronger shop.  

Be sure to vet mentors, change them when needed, and follow their advice. Advice is great, but it will mean nothing if the mentor's advice is not implemented. The future growth of your shop depends on your ability to surround yourself with the right people—mentors are a good option.